In Australia, it’s pretty important to know how to cook a decent steak. A good piece of grilled steak is one of the simplest meals you can make, yet many people worry and fuss over how to cook it properly. Here are some tips on how to cook the perfect steak.
Start with good quality beef
Buy the best quality beef that you can afford. This will make sure you get a head-start when it comes to flavour and texture. Choose the right cut. For instance, if you like your steak butter-soft, choose a piece of eye-fillet; if you want super-tasty and don’t mind a bit of a chew, choose rump, skirt or hangar. Steaks come in all shapes and sizes, so there’s no perfect formula for timing. For instance, a 250 g steak that is flat and thin will cook more quickly than a 250 g steak that is thick.
Preparing your steak
Make sure you don’t cook your steak straight from the fridge. Let it come to room temperature about 30 minutes before you cook. Prepare for cooking by drying the steak. Remove all excess moisture with a paper towel, then rub the steak all over with a good quality olive oil. Use your hands to smear it on evenly, then generously season the meat with salt and pepper just before you put it on the grill. Both the oil and seasoning will help stop the meat from sticking to the grill. They’ll help seal the surface and ensure that it caramelises to a lovely deep brown, which will make it taste better, too. The goal is to develop a nice crust on the outside of the steak and retain the moisture inside.
Where to cook?
Most people in Australia agree that cooking a steak on a barbecue is the best option. Any decent barbecue should allow you to create a range of temperatures from very hot to medium-hot. Why is that so important? With a big thick piece of meat it is likely to burn on the outside before the heat penetrates to the centre if the griddle is too hot. With big thick steaks you want to move the steak to a medium heat after the initial searing over a high heat. Alternatively, transfer it to the oven to finish cooking after the initial searing.
How often should you turn steak? Some people insist that you should only turn your steak once during the cooking process. I like to turn my steaks between three and five times depending on the thickness. I find that this way the meat cooks evenly and ends up tender and juicy inside. I actually turn the meat at right-angles, which means you get an attractive cross-hatching from the barbecue griddle.
When is it ready?
It takes practice to know exactly when a steak is ready. Some experts warn against cutting into the steak to see how the steak looks, but if you’re a novice cook, then this is a straightforward approach. You do run the risk of losing some of the internal juices, so I suggest you move the steak off the heat and leave it to rest for 2-3 minutes before making a small incision into the thickest part of the meat.
A far better way to test for doneness is to press the steak with your finger. Essentially, the more yielding the steak is under pressure, the rarer the steak.
Resting your steak
Once the steak is cooked, you must rest it. Allowing your steak to rest away from the heat source allows the juices to settle back to the centre of the meat and the fibres to relax, becoming nice and tender. As a simple rule of thumb, allow an equal amount of resting time as the meat took to cook. So in other words, if the steak took 5 minutes to cook, allow it to rest in a warm spot for 5 minutes before serving. You can always put it back on the heat for a final warm through. 30 seconds on each side should be enough.